In the 50s, headscarves weren’t
controversial. We all wore them in the windy
Panhandle of Texas to keep our bouffant
hairstyles from blowing all over the place and
to keep our hair out of our eyes.
I never could see very well, even under the
best of circumstances. It was even worse
when my hair got tangled in my cat’s eye
I tried to get the hairstyle and the glasses just
right because I loved the bad boys—Evis
Presley, James Dean in Rebel without a
I wore Bobbie Sox with penny loafers (with
real pennies in the slots on top) or black-and-
white saddle oxfords under my poodle skirt, a
circular felt skirt that flared straight out when I
twirled—whether or not it had a poodle
design. Even when you didn't twirl, it was
held out with layers of scratchy petticoats
made of stiff tulle.
I drank Cokes or malts at the Corner
Drugstore down the street from the shop, or
ate hamburgers at the drive-in where the
plastic seatcovers stuck to the back of my
legs and I had to shout over the jukebox.
I liked the guy with the cool car, but when he
took me home, I watched my real love, an
older man, Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet.
A small town Main Street like Happy, Texas,
in the 1950s.
Even though we never did it in Happy, we
heard about school children who got
under their desks to escape nuclear
bombs set off by the Communists. I
don't know if we didn't think the
Communists would ever find a place as
small as Happy or if we realized that
getting under our desks wasn't likely to
shield us from nuclear bombs, but we
never did it.
I'm embarrassed now to think that we
were conservatives and racists at the
time. The first black family moved into
our town, and I've thought since how
difficult it must have been for them to be
ignored by most people.
Mostly, I wanted to get out of
Happy to go to a bigger place, to
go to college, to learn
something. I wanted to go
where attitudes were broader,
where people were interested in
more things, where people
knew more things.
I wanted to go to places I saw
on TV, where people cared
about right and wrong and
thought about the ultimate
things that we studied about in
I wanted to make a difference in
people's lives like Sgt. Joe
Friday and other detectives did
on TV. I wanted to change
things for the better and make
life more honest and just. I
wanted to be less selfish and
better for everyone.